How to Install a Chainsaw Chain Safely in 6 Steps


At first glance, the chainsaw may look like a complex tool. However, with the right tools and direction, even the not-so-handyman can go from using to taking it apart and putting it back together for maintenance. The chain is a vital component of a chainsaw, consisting of steel links held together by rivets. When you first get a chainsaw, it is crucial to put the chain on properly so the tool can work correctly. It is possible to put it on backward, and while this might not be catastrophic, the chainsaw would not do its job well. Always check where the cutting tooth is pointing. If attached correctly, it should be pointing forward.

Steps to Install a Chain on a Chainsaw

step-by-step guide on how to change a chainsaw chain
Image by Hans on Pixabay

How to install a chainsaw chain? Can you do it at home, by yourself? Yes, replacing a chainsaw chain is not as hard as it looks. All you need are the right tools to get you started.

Step 1: Get everything ready

Before installing a chain on a chainsaw, you need to get everything ready. Get the required tools, including wrenches, screwdrivers, and spanners. The sizes of these tools would depend on the types of bolts, nuts, or screws on the chainsaw. Look the chainsaw over and confirm the right type and size of tool to have ready. Some new chainsaws come packed with some maintenance tools in the box. Also, ensure that you wear the correct protective gear before you begin. Faceguards or goggles to protect the eyes, gloves to protect fingers and hands, and a helmet, are essential. Finally, prepare a flat surface to place the machine so it is easy to install the chains.

Step 2: Remove the sprocket cover

The first thing would be to locate the bolts that hold the housing together and unscrew them. Most chainsaws have two bolts; however, the size and number of bolts differ depending on the model. After unscrewing the bolts, please keep them in a container to avoid them rolling away and getting lost. Pull the casing away and look out for any more clips holding the housing together. With the covers removed, the sprocket and inners of the chainsaw are now exposed.

Step 3: Remove the chain tensioner

You will instantly see the chain tensioner after you open the housing. The chain tensioner ensures the correct tension of the timing chain. It controls the chain, makes it run, and prevents it from rattling and pulling off the sprockets. There are a few screws that you would need to unscrew to loosen it. With the tensioner now able to move backward, you can now have access to open the cover of the chain spool. The spool is held together by wingnuts. Located at the level of the bar is the tensioner wheel, which you can now turn to the end. All these will expose the spool and motor pulley. Now that the screws are loose and the inner exposed, it is time to install the chain.

Step 4: Placing the new chainsaw chain

A new chainsaw chain usually comes with its guide in its packing case. The type of task you want to undertake will determine the type of chain to install. A standard chain is sometimes called a full-house saw chain and usually is suitable for DIYs and occasional use. After selecting the proper chain for the model, take note of the chain’s direction of rotation. Most chainsaws have a guide, an arrow, that will point you where it should be going. Ensure that the cutting teeth are facing upwards and towards the front. Also, look at the guide rail bar and ensure that all the chain is inserted inside it. Pass the chain around the motor pulley and fix the guide in the provided location. To lock the guide, pull it toward the pulley, and you should feel it lock into place.

Step 5: Adjust chain tension

For this step, you will locate the adjustment screws. They are below the bolt that holds the housing of the unit together. Use a flat screwdriver to turn the adjustment screw clockwise to tension (tighten) the chain. Turn it counter-clockwise to loosen it. Check that it is not too tight as it will cause the chain guide to wear out quickly during use. However, if it is too loose, the rotation of the chainsaw during operation could cause the guide to derail, which may cause injury to the user. A well-tensioned chain should hang slightly and feel a little bit slack. When you have ensured the correct tension of the chain, you can cover the crankcase and tighten the bolts using a wrench. Your chainsaw now has a new chain and is ready to use.

Step 6: Do a final check

Before starting up the chainsaw after installing a new chain, whether replacing an old one or fixing one for the first time, check that there is adequate oil for lubrication. A well-lubricated chainsaw will ensure a longer lifespan of the tool. Start the chainsaw engine and while it is running, listen for rattles or other noise that might indicate that the chain is not installed correctly.

Typically, a gasoline engine should warm up before use. A portable chainsaw powered by gasoline has a small engine, so it should take a short time for the engine to warm up. Warming up the engine will allow the oil to flow through and lubricate all the engine parts. Let the engine run for some time while also listening for the rev. An over-revving chainsaw can be dangerous. So, if your chainsaw is over-revving, you will have to adjust the carburetor or check the air filters.

We Think You’ll Like It: How to Change a Chainsaw Chain

Safety Tips for Using a Chainsaw

woodworker using safety gears while using a chainsaw
Image by Kollinger on Pixabay

Choose the right size

Chainsaws have different uses, so be sure to select the correct one. Chainsaws come in various sizes, from small handheld machines to industrial use. Moreover, the blades also come in a variety of sizes and types. The blades are as small as 4 inches to well over 40 inches. Note that the longer the blades, the harder it will be to control the chainsaw. There are chainsaws for cutting wood, ice, bone, or even cement, so you must have the right type of chainsaw before you try cutting it.

Use protective gear

Always use protective equipment and take precautions when dealing with tools such as chainsaws. Gear such as faceguards, gloves, helmets, and steel-toed safety shoes, are required for using power tools. Since chainsaws tend to get loud during operation, ear muffs or other ear protection may be necessary. Loose-wearing clothing is considered a hazard since it could get caught in the teeth while using the machine. If other people will assist you in using a chainsaw, make sure that they also have the right protective gear on too.

Check the area

Check the area you intend to use the machine. If you are felling a tree, look out for power or utility lines, vehicles, or buildings. If there are people around you who are not helping, make sure that they are at an adequate distance from you. Also, if you are cutting more than one tree, it is best to secure the perimeter around the area with tape or markers so that unauthorized people will stay away and be safe from injuries caused by falling debris.

Proper posture

The proper stance when using chainsaws is necessary to avoid injuries. Chainsaws vibrate during operation, so stand with both feet firmly on the ground and hold the chainsaw with two hands. Use the chainsaw positioned to your side instead of directly in front of you since kickbacks might occur.

Prep your chainsaw

Check that the chain is adequately tensioned. Also, check all fluids if you are using a gasoline-powered machine. Gasoline and lubricating oil must be at optimal levels before you use the chainsaw. Using an old cloth dipped in lubricating oil, spread the oil along the chain, giving it a generous coating.

Chainsaw Powersource: Electricity Vs. Gas Vs. Battery

electric chainsaw
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Gasoline was the power source for chainsaws, but later developments saw the production of electric and battery-powered ones. Chainsaws come in various sizes. There are portable ones, which you can operate with one hand, and there are large industrial types that need more than one person to use.

The battery-powered chainsaws can be convenient because once charged, you can move them around without tripping over wires. Plug-in chainsaws are also available, and you will need an electronic supply to power them up. The most common and usually most efficient and powerful are the gasoline-powered chainsaws. They are more versatile, and you can carry and use them anywhere as long as there is enough gas in the tank.


Regular maintenance is necessary for the longevity of a chainsaw. With improvements in the designs of portable chainsaws, you can now have this done in the comfort of your home in a tool shed or garage. Installing a chain on a portable chainsaw now no longer requires a trip to the hardware store. With the right tools, protective gear, and following the detailed steps here, one can quickly and efficiently change their chainsaw chains at home.

Leave a Comment